What drives mass demonstrations in Indonesia?


For more than two weeks Indonesian students have taken to the streets to hold demonstrations against the controversial bills.

Two legislations that received wide rejection were the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Law — that they say would weaken the country’s anti-corruption body — and the Draft Criminal Code Book.

The revised anti-corruption law passed on Sept. 17 but the students still opposed it and asked the president to replace the laws by issuing a Government Regulation in Lieu of Law.

A week after, the House of Representatives postponed deliberation of Draft Criminal Code Book and four other bills, including mineral mining bill, land bill, correctional procedures bill, and labor bill.

These five legislations are considered problematic and will potentially lead to even bigger waves of demonstration if passed.

In the new KPK law that has passed, some important changes were considered controversial.

The first one involves the independence of the anti-corruption institute.

In the new law, the commission becomes an executive structure under the president and the employees become civil servants.

Donal Fariz from Indonesia Corruption Watch said that by becoming one of the executive structures under the president, the KPK lost its independence.

The second one involves the emergence of a supervisory board under the commission that holds more authority than the commissioners, and the board’s authority includes technical case handling.

“It will be more difficult for KPK to investigate cases as it requires permission from the supervisory board that works under president. It is prone to political intervention,” said Fariz.

Constitutional law observer Refly Harun said the supervisory board will give more room for intervention and stop certain cases by not permitting search, seizure, and wiretap.

Third, the new law would undermine the “sting operation” that has become the backbone of corruption eradication in the country because of the complexity of authorizing wiretaps and other regulations.

Harun said that the law was rejected by most people because it contained regulations that would weaken the anti-corruption body.

The law, he said, shrinks the authority of the commission because all decisions — to investigate and prosecute — are no longer made by the body.

In fact, all this time the commission has become the hope of the people for eradicating corruption in the country as they consider police and prosecutors part of the problem.

“The commission is indeed not perfect, but it has proven its credibility. Each sting operation proved the guilty ones involved,” said Harun.

According to Fariz, the president can revoke the revision of the law and restore the old one.

“The president can issue a Government Regulation in Lieu of Law to revoke the newly passed law or revise the problematic articles,” he added.

The Criminal Code Book threatens freedom of civilians

The problem with the Draft Criminal Code Book is that the content of clauses meddles the private sphere.

Manunggal Wardaya, a member of the Advisory Board of the Indonesian Human Rights Teaching Union, said the government is trying to control private sphere and criminalize things that should have not been the responsibility of the state.

The founder of the Center for Law and Policy Studies, Bivitri Susanti, said that not all articles in the draft were problematic.

According to her, at least 16 out of the 629 articles are considered threatening and disrupting democratic life as well as crossing the boundaries of private life.

“For example, the article on criminalizing extramarital sex. Although some people think it is wrong, its implementation will be difficult,” said Susanti.

“What about religious marriage (marriage only by sharia, not by law)? There is no legal documentation. When it comes to criminal law, a legal state document is needed as evidence.”

Furthermore, the Draft Criminal Code Book was also considered threatening the freedom of opinion as there are articles that regulate the insults towards president.

Another controversial clause is the one stating that abortion is punishable for a maximum of four years imprisonment without exception.

The law is considered threatening the victims of rape or people with life-endangering pregnancy who really need an abortion.
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